Tuesday 21 November 2017

Shambles as Ross lacks leadership and Hickey fails to assure a concerned public

Shane Ross TD Picture Tom Burke
Shane Ross TD Picture Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Over the course of 48 hours in June of last year, members of an Oireachtas committee received the same phone call from one of the most powerful people in Irish sport.

John Delaney, the Chief Executive of the FAI, was under intense pressure after it emerged that his organisation had accepted a ¤5m interest-free loan from Fifa as compensation for the Thierry Henry handball incident.

Members of the Oireachtas sports committee quite rightly sought to give Delaney a grilling over the payment - as is their responsibility and duty as watchdogs.

However, Delaney's decision to personally contact TDs and senators paid off.After receiving advice from officials, the committee decided against inviting him in at all.

Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, who has since been appointed committee chairman, said the U-turn set a "dangerous precedent" in Irish politics.

Of course, the latest storm surrounding the alleged illegal sale of tickets has nothing to do with John Delaney. Instead, it is a scandal that has engulfed Delaney's pal, Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) boss Pat Hickey.

But similar to the Fifa payment controversy, we have found ourselves in a sorry scenario in which nobody seems to be truly accountable to the public.

Hickey has as much of a responsibility as anyone else in establishing the facts and ensuring that the OCI does, as he says, have a clean bill of health.

The OCI was not supportive of Ireland signing an anti-doping pledge prior to the Games, and this has given rise to some tensions with government.

We don't yet know whether the OCI can get to the bottom of the latest saga unfolding in Rio, which has left Irishman Kevin Mallon jailed, accused of conspiracy. But what we do know is that the whole thing stinks to the heavens and that this small country of ours has suffered damage to its reputation.

Hickey has shown a dearth of leadership in his failure to reassure the public that this scandal will be adequately addressed. But he's not the only one whose inability to instil public confidence has spoken volumes.

Shane Ross, pictured left, departs for Rio tomorrow, having promised to embark on a "mission" to get the answers that are desperately required. But as revealed today, it was left to his junior counterpart Patrick O'Donovan to take the tough decisions when they needed to be made.

The Minister's response has to date been nothing short of limp.

Quite frankly, one can't help wonder whether he is out of his depth.

He should be reminded that it is he, and not Hickey, who is in charge here.

Leadership needs to be shown.

Otherwise, Ross will never secure the respect of those in Irish sport, some of whom - like Hickey - need to be brought right back to the real world.


Irish Independent

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